A national historic site located in our region is reporting another solid year for tourism. The village of Neubergthal saw an increase in the number of visitors who wanted to experience the unique features of a Mennonite street village.
Shaun Friesen, chairperson of the Neubergthal Heritage Foundation, says 2019 was their strongest season ever.
"Every year we budget 'x' number of dollars for income from our tours, and we don't charge very much for a full tour of both the Commons and Friesen house barns. We charge $10 per person and we have already exceeded our budget projections. We've had large bus tours ... and we're very encouraged by that."
Neubergthal is the best preserved single street Mennonite village in North America and was designated a national heritage site. The village layout and architecture was developed over centuries of Mennonite life in Europe and Russia and introduced to the Canadian Prairies starting in the 1870s. A number of homes and barns in Neubergthal have been rehabilitated in an effort to bring the structures back to their original appearance when Mennonites settled the West Reserve.
Friesen explains that many of their visitors come to admire the architecture of some of the original homes and barns that have been rehabilitated, but they often leave the tour with much more.
"They get something that they don't expect. For instance, Margruite Krahn has done a lot of work on collecting floor patterns and researching the kind of colours that Mennonites used, and you walk into these places ... and you see yellows, ochres, blues, greens and plumbs. We've had some people reduced to tears because they had no idea that their black clad pioneer grandmothers, and great grandmothers had any sense of beauty at all."
Friesen says the next project on their agenda will be the restoration of the Klippenstein house.
"Somehow, either in the house or connected to the house, some kitchen facilities," explains Friesen. "We're dreaming of a library that would include computers to do genealogical research, a collection of Mennonite history books, some interactive audio/visual things where people on their own can sit down, and take a virtual tour of any of our properties and dial up some interesting historical facts about the Mennonite settlement planted on the West Reserve, and how it connects to the East Reserve and beyond. That, again, probably we're looking at raising another $400,000."
Meanwhile, Neubergthal Heritage Foundation is inviting the entire family to join them Saturday for DARP Day for music, Mennonite food and history, seminars and much more. Learn more here.